Profitable Businesses by qjo20368


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After studying this chapter, you will able to
 Explain what a firm is and describe the economic
  problems that all firms face
 Distinguish between technological efficiency and
  economic efficiency
 Define and explain the principal-agent problem and
  describe how different types of business organizations
  cope with this problem

After studying this chapter, you will able to
 Describe and distinguish between different types of
  markets in which firms operate
 Explain why markets coordinate some economic
  activities and firms coordinate others
Spinning a Web

Tim Berners-Lee’s idea, the World Wide Web, has
provided a platform for the creation of thousands of
profitable businesses from tiny owner-operated firms to
giant multinationals.
This chapter explains the role of firms and the problems
that all firms face.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

A firm is an institution that hires factors of production and
organizes them to produce and sell goods and services.
The Firm’s Goal
 A firm’s goal is to maximize profit.
If the firm fails to maximize profits it is either eliminated or
bought out by other firms seeking to maximize profit.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

Measuring a Firm’s Profit
Accountants measure a firm’s profit using rules laid down
by the Internal Revenue Service and the Financial
Accounting Standards Board.
Their goal is to report profit so that the firm pays the
correct amount of tax and is open and honest about its
financial situation with its bank and other lenders.
Economists measure profit based on an opportunity cost
measure of cost.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

Opportunity Cost
A firm’s decisions respond to opportunity cost and
economic profit.
A firm’s opportunity cost of producing a good is the best,
forgone alternative use of its factors of production, usually
measured in dollars.
Opportunity cost includes both:
 Explicit costs
 Implicit costs
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

Explicit costs are costs paid directly in money.
Implicit costs are costs incurred when a firm uses its own
capital or its owners’ time for which it does not make a
direct money payment.
The firm can rent capital and pay an explicit rental cost
reflecting the opportunity cost of using the capital.
The firm can also buy capital and incur an implicit
opportunity cost of using its own capital, called the implicit
rental rate of capital.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

The implicit rental rate of capital is made up of:
 Economic depreciation
 Interest forgone
Economic depreciation is the change in the market value
of capital over a given period.
Interest forgone is the return on the funds used to acquire
the capital.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

The cost of the owner’s resources is his or her
entrepreneurial ability and labor expended in running the
The opportunity cost of the owner’s entrepreneurial ability
is the average return from this contribution that can be
expected from running another firm. This return is called a
normal profit.
The opportunity cost of the owner’s labor spent running
the business is the wage income forgone by not working in
the next best alternative job.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

Economic Profit
Economic profit equals a firm’s total revenue minus its
opportunity cost of production.
A firm’s opportunity cost of production is the sum of the
explicit costs and implicit costs.
Normal profit is part of the firm’s opportunity costs, so
economic profit is profit over and above normal profit.
Table 9.1summarizes the economic accounting concepts.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

Economic Accounting: A Summary
  To maximize profit, a firm must make five basic
 What goods and services to produce and in what
 How to produce—the production technology to use
 How to organize and compensate its managers and
 How to market and price its products
 What to produce itself and what to buy from other firms
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

The Firm’s Constraints
The five basic decisions of a firm are limited by the
constraints it faces. There are three constraints a firm
 Technology
 Information
 Market
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

Technology Constraints
Technology is any method of producing a good or service.
Technology advances over time.
Using the available technology, the firm can produce more
only if it hires more resources, which will increase its costs
and limit the profit of additional output.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

Information Constraints
A firm never possesses complete information about either
the present or the future.
It is constrained by limited information about the quality
and effort of its work force, current and future buying plans
of its customers, and the plans of its competitors.
The cost of coping with limited information limits profit.
The Firm and Its Economic Problem

Market Constraints
What a firm can sell and the price it can obtain are
constrained by its customers’ willingness to pay and by the
prices and marketing efforts of other firms.
The resources that a firm can buy and the prices it must
pay for them are limited by the willingness of people to
work for and invest in the firm.
The expenditures a firm incurs to overcome these market
constraints will limit the profit the firm can make.
Technology and Economic Efficiency

Technological Efficiency
Technological efficiency occurs when a firm produces a
given level of output by using the least amount inputs.
Table 9.2 shows four ways of making a TV set, one of
which is technologically inefficient.
There may be different combinations of inputs to use for
producing a given level of output.
If it is impossible to maintain output by decreasing any one
input, holding all other inputs constant, then production is
technologically efficient.
Technology and Economic Efficiency

Economic Efficiency
Economic efficiency occurs when the firm produces a
given level of output at the least cost.
Table 9.3 shows how the economically efficient method
depends on the relative costs of capital and labor.
The difference between technological and economic
efficiency is that technological efficiency concerns the
quantity of inputs used in production for a given level of
output, whereas economic efficiency concerns the cost of
the inputs used.
Technology and Economic Efficiency

An economically efficient production process also is
technologically efficient.\
A technologically efficient process may not be
economically efficient.
Changes in the input prices influence the value of the
inputs, but not the technological process for using them in
Information and Organization

A firm organizes production by combining and
coordinating productive resources using a mixture of two
 Command systems
 Incentive systems
Information and Organization

Command Systems
A command system uses a managerial hierarchy.
Commands pass downward through the hierarchy and
information (feedback) passes upward.
These systems are relatively rigid and can have many
layers of specialized management.
Information and Organization

Incentive Systems
An incentive system, uses market-like mechanisms to
induce workers to perform in ways that maximize the firm’s
Information and Organization

Mixing the Systems
Most firms use a mix of command and incentive systems
to maximize profit.
They use commands when it is easy to monitor
performance or when a small deviation from the ideal
performance is very costly.
They use incentives whenever monitoring performance is
impossible or too costly to be worth doing.
Information and Organization

The Principal-Agent Problem
The principal-agent problem is the problem of devising
compensation rules that induce an agent to act in the best
interests of a principal.
For example, the stockholders of a firm are the principals
and the managers of the firm are their agents.
Information and Organization

Coping with the Principal-Agent Problem
Three ways of coping with the principal-agent problem are:
 Ownership
 Incentive pay
 Long-term contracts
Information and Organization

Ownership, often offered to managers, gives the
managers an incentive to maximize the firm’s profits,
which is the goal of the owners, the principals.
Incentive pay links managers’ or workers’ pay to the firm’s
performance and helps align the managers’ and workers’
interests with those of the owners, the principal.
Long-term contracts can tie managers’ or workers’ long-
term rewards to the long-term performance of the firm.
This arrangement encourages the agents work in the best
long-term interests of the firm owners, the principals.
Information and Organization

Types of Business Organization
There are three types of business organization:
 Proprietorship
 Partnership
 Corporation
Information and Organization

A proprietorship is a firm with a single owner who has
unlimited liability, or legal responsibility for all debts
incurred by the firm—up to an amount equal to the entire
wealth of the owner.
The proprietor also makes management decisions and
receives the firm’s profit.
Profits are taxed the same as the owner’s other income.
Information and Organization

A partnership is a firm with two or more owners who have
unlimited liability.
Partners must agree on a management structure and how
to divide up the profits.
Profits from partnerships are taxed as the personal income
of the owners.
Information and Organization

 A corporation is owned by one or more stockholders with
 limited liability, which means the owners who have legal
 liability only for the initial value of their investment.
 The personal wealth of the stockholders is not at risk if the
 firm goes bankrupt.
 The profit of corporations is taxed twice—once as a
 corporate tax on firm profits, and then again as income
 taxes paid by stockholders receiving their after-tax profits
 distributed as dividends.
Information and Organization

Pros and Cons of Different Types of Firms
Each type of business organization has advantages and
Table 9.4 lists the pros and cons of different types of
Information and Organization

 Proprietorships are easy to set up
 Managerial decision making is simple
 Profits are taxed only once
 But bad decisions made by the manager are not subject
  to review
 The owner’s entire wealth is at stake
 The firm dies with the owner
 The cost of capital and labor can be high
Information and Organization

 Partnerships are easy to set up
 Employ diversified decision-making processes
 Can survive the death or withdrawal of a partner
 Profits are taxed only once
 But partnerships make attaining a consensus about
  managerial decisions difficult
 Place the owners’ entire wealth at risk
 The cost of capital can be high, and the withdrawal of a
  partner might create a capital shortage
Information and Organization

 A corporation offers perpetual life
 Limited liability for its owners
 Large-scale and low-cost capital that is readily available
 Professional management
 Lower costs from long-term labor contracts
 But a corporation’s management structure may lead to
  slower and expensive decision-making
 Profit is taxed twice—as corporate profit and shareholder
Information and Organization

The Relative Importance of Different Types and Firms
There are a greater number of proprietorships than other
form of business, but corporations account for the majority
of revenue received by businesses.
Information and Organization

Figure 9.1(a) shows the
frequency of each type of
business organization.

Figure 9.1(b) shows the
dominant type of business
organization for various
Markets and the Competitive

Economists identify four market types:
 Perfect competition
 Monopolistic competition
 Oligopoly
 Monopoly
Markets and the Competitive

Perfect competition is a market structure with:
 Many firms
 Each sells an identical product
 Many buyers
 No restrictions on entry of new firms to the industry
 Both firms and buyers are all well informed of the prices
  and products of all firms in the industry.
Markets and the Competitive

Monopolistic competition is a market structure with:
 Many firms
 Each firm produces similar but slightly different
  products—called product differentiation
 Each firm possesses an element of market power
 No restrictions on entry of new firms to the industry
Markets and the Competitive

Oligopoly is a market structure in which:
 A small number of firms compete
 The firms might produce almost identical products or
  differentiated products
 Barriers to entry limit entry into the market.
Markets and the Competitive

Monopoly is a market structure in which
 One firm produces the entire output of the industry
 There are no close substitutes for the product
 There are barriers to entry that protect the firm from
  competition by entering firms
Markets and the Competitive

Measures of Concentration
Two measures of market concentration in common use
 The four-firm concentration ratio
 The Herfindahl–Hirschman index (HHI)
Markets and the Competitive

The four-firm concentration ratio is the percentage of
the total industry sales accounted for by the four largest
firms in the industry.
The Herfindahl–Hirschman index (HHI) is the sum of the
squared market shares of the 50 largest firms in the
The larger the measure of market concentration, the less
competition that exists in the industry.
Table 9.5 on page 202 shows an example calculation for
each ratio.
Markets and the Competitive

Concentration Measures for the U.S. Economy
 The U.S. Justice Department uses the HHI to classify
 A market with an HHI of less than 1,000 is regarded as
highly competitive
 A market with an HHI between 1,000 and 1,800 is
regarded as moderately competitive
 A market with an HHI greater than 1,800 is
Markets and the Competitive

Figure 9.2 shows the four-
firm concentration ratio for
various industries in the
United States.

The figure also shows the
HHI for these industries.
Markets and the Competitive

Limitations of Concentration Measures
 Concentration measures alone are not sufficient to identify
 the market structure of a given industry.
Concentration ratios are based on the national market.
For some goods, the relevant market is local (e.g.,
For some goods, the relevant market is the world (e.g.,
Markets and the Competitive

Concentration ratios convey no information about the
extent of barriers to entry.
For some industries, few firms may be currently operating
in the market but competition might be fierce, with firms
regularly entering and exiting the industry.
Even potential entry might be enough to maintain
Markets and the Competitive

Table 9.6 on page 203 summarizes the range of other
information used with the concentration ratio to determine
market structure.
Markets and the Competitive

Market Structures in the
U.S. Economy
 Figure 9.3 shows the
 distribution of market
 structures in the U.S.
The economy is mainly
Markets and Firms

Market Coordination
Markets both coordinate production.
Chapter 3 explains how demand and supply coordinate
the plans of buyers and sellers.
Outsourcing—buying parts or products from other firms—
is an example of market coordination of production.
But firms coordinate more production than do markets.
Markets and Firms

Why Firms?
Firms coordinate production when they can do so more
efficiently than a market.
Four key reasons might make firms more efficient. Firms
can achieve:
 Lower transactions costs
 Economies of scale
 Economies of scope
 Economies of team production
Markets and Firms

Transactions costs are the costs arising from finding
someone with whom to do business, reaching agreement
on the price and other aspects of the exchange, and
ensuring that the terms of the agreement are fulfilled.
Economies of scale occur when the cost of producing a
unit of a good falls as its output rate increases.
Economies of scope arise when a firm can use
specialized inputs to produce a range of different goods at
a lower cost than otherwise.
Firms can engage in team production, in which the
individuals specialize in mutually supporting tasks.

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